‘Buying Beverly Hills’ star sued for $35 million over Malibu mansion sale

The transaction’s celebrity broker is also husband of a ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ cast member

There’s a house in Malibu that’s been the center of controversy, international intrigue and numerous lawsuits since 2011. Located at 3620 Sweetwater Mesa Road, the property has an estimated value of just over $82 million, according to Zillow. The 16-acre estate property with a 16,000-square-foot home and three-hole golf course, built in 1991, sits on a promontory looking down on the Malibu Pier and the Adamson House.

This story was put together from previous LA Times and Malibu Times reports, and court documents.

The saga began when African “prince” Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, playboy son of the president (dictator) of Equatorial Guinea, acquired the Malibu mansion for $30 million from Karen Rabe (whose family syndicated “Wheel of Fortune”) in 2006.

Nguema was investigated by a U.S. Senate subcommittee regarding large-scale public corruption in his home country. A 2010 report alleged that, from 2004 to 2008, he employed lawyers and shell companies to move more than $100 million in suspicious funds into the U.S. to purchase luxury assets, including a $38.5 million Gulfstream V jet, the Malibu mansion, Michael Jackson memorabilia and exotic cars.

When the Obama administration began its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2010, aimed at reducing corruption in foreign states, Nguema was a major target. 

The 2014 settlement required him to sell off the assets and forfeit $30.3 million in proceeds to the U.S. government, which were later earmarked for countrywide COVID vaccines in Equatorial Guinea.

To sell off the mansion, Nguema and the government needed a broker with connections to wealthy buyers around the world, and the house was to be appraised and sold at ‘fair market value’ — $32 million. The listing agreement allowed a generous 6 percent commission, and permitted the brokerage firm to represent both buyer and seller.

Celebrity broker Mauricio Umansky, 52, was approved as the listing agent in May 2015; he is the spouse of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Kyle Richards, and now star of his own reality show “Buying Beverly Hills.” He co- founded “The Agency” 11 years before; the business claimed nearly $4 billion in sales. 

Nguema received five offers at the $32 million asking price, and responded by requesting $33.5 million counteroffers. Two of the potential buyers, Dugally Oberfeld and Sam Hakim, both met the counteroffers for $33.5 million, but Oberfeld was declared the “winner” (even though he was later given a $1 million repair discount, bringing the purchase price down to $32.5 million.)

At the time Hakim submitted his $32 million bid, his realtor, Aitan Segal, told Umansky that his client was willing to pay in the $40 million range, according to Hakim’s later lawsuit.

During a later tour of the property, Segal again told Umansky that Hakim would pay $40 million, according to the suit. Umansky told them he’d relay the offer to Nguema, but not to put it in writing, since the owner was not profiting from the sale and wasn’t motivated by price.

Just after Oberfeld acquired the house, Hakim wanted the property so badly, he sent him a letter of intent to pay him $8 million to buy out his position. The developer countered with a demand for $15 million, and Hakim walked away.

Umansky and Oberferld then flipped the property in March 2017, selling it for $69.9 million — and a cool $37.4 million profit. The buyer was heiress Karen Lo, granddaughter of the founder of Vitasoy in Hong Kong. However, the owner of record is shell company Malibu LaMalibu, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Upon reading about the flip, Nguema and his attorneys sent Umansky a demand, claiming he steered the sale to Oberfeld even though he hadn’t bid more than anyone else and later got financial concessions. His attorneys asked for a settlement of at least $8 million, saying that (Hakim) had offered to pay that much more for the property. 

Hakim said when he read an online article in August 2018 about how Umansky and The Agency had been sued by their insurer over the flip, he realized for the first time that Umansky had [allegedly] been in on the deal all along, and concluded that Umansky had never relayed his verbal offer to Nguema. Hakim’s attorneys maintain that Umansky and Oberfeld had planned the flip from the time Umansky got the listing.

The Agency made a claim to its insurer, Western World, who refused to pay. Instead, the insurer accused Umansky and the brokerage of failing to disclose its potential negligence and breach of fiduciary and statutory duties involving the Malibu home deal. The two sides reached an undisclosed settlement.

Nguema also sued, receiving a $6.35 million settlement that went to the U.S. Department of Justice for Equatorial Guinea.

More than three years after the sale closed, Hakim and Segal in September 2019 filed separate lawsuits in LA County Superior Court. Umansky was accused of violating his legal obligation to be a fair and honest broker, and Hakim wanted a minimum of $35 million in damages. The current defendants include Umansky, Oberfeld, the investment vehicle that took legal ownership of the mansion, and The Agency. 

Umansky filed a motion to have the case thrown out of court, denying there was ever a $40 million verbal offer, and saying Hakim would have known to put such an offer in writing. 

“It saddens me that others seek to diminish our success by rehashing old news about a transaction that closed in 2016 … the allegations are false and I’m extremely confident that we’ll prevail,” Umansky stated to the LA Times. 

Hakim and Segal, represented by the Allen Matkins law firm, were scheduled for mediation on the case just before Christmas.

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